Sara Flynn

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SARA FLYNN 6 - 29 October 2020

15 Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London, W1S 4SP | | +44 (0) 207 491 1706

One of my favourite publications is a catalogue of a past exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, November 9, 1964 – February 7, 1965, Architecture without Architects, curated by the writer and architect Bernard Rudofsky. I bought my copy from a second-hand bookshop in London. The sub-text of the title is, “A Short Introduction to Non-Pedigreed Architecture”. I found that there were attributes that reminded me of the built architectural structures in Sara Flynn’s recent work. Sara Flynn has been introducing us to forms and vessels that are made on a wheel. They are then deconstructed and reconstructed as if they were conceived as dwellings for a neighbourhood in which the vessels might be inhabited by individuals, couples or families. The forms are not simply altered to create niches and corners that make you hone in on the detail of the vessel: they relate to each other like dwellings or architecture that spontaneously grows outwards and spreads instantaneously like the favelas, sheltered adobe clusters in deserts or hill side granaries of Mali. I think, however, that the precise glazed surfaces in Sara’s new work have the freedom found in the individually-designed contemporary architecture one sees today and which does not conform with the informal traditional norms. Each individual piece that Sara makes dwells within its own form but also works as a group of resolved, glazed, ceramic vessels with strong defined colours unifying them as objects to be owned especially in groups. These are vessels and containers constructed with the intention of making you want to lean over to find out what is beyond those decisive and absolutely ordered exteriors.

Dame Magdalene Odundo OBE is an internationally esteemed ceramic artist. Her distinctive hand built vessels are inspired by her love of clay as a material. “There is always a rich dialogue between clay as a material and the maker, its expansiveness is elastic, and above all, there is an intrinsic simplicity in clay that is very human which has enabled continuous creativity for all mankind”.

Pair of Camber Vessels 27 cm high (SF-0307)

Folded Vessel 21 x 26 x 13 cm (SF-0282)

Sara Flynn

I first came across Sara Flynn’s work professionally, as it were, in Kilkenny in 2011. I had been asked to join the judging panel for the Design & Crafts Council Ireland’s prestigious ‘Portfolio Critical Selection’, a bi-annual survey of craft that assesses excellence in design, skill, material understanding and the potency of a craft aesthetic. Sara’s work jumped over these benchmarks at a frolicked canter, and she has been a regular participant in the Portfolio programme: a drumbeat reminder of her contribution to international ceramic prowess. Looking at the body of work that Sara has developed for this exhibition at Erskine, Hall & Coe has been a very different experience. This time, there is no need to make an assessment against institutional criteria, the artist present only through her work on the judging table; and most important of all, Sara has been the pre-exhibition guide. The work has been shown in its raw states in the studio, over loquacious Zoom meetings, the vessels leaning towards resolution, still posing questions. It is a show borne out of the restrictions of Covid-19. The works that appear in her new exhibition will also seem settled and authoritative: as if they have been there all along, as if it is their destiny. This is of course both the truth and a charade. The process of making vessels for the show involves experimentation, risk and reward. Some works don’t make the grade or help Sara to think a problem through. Nothing is wasted. The exhibition, we might say, is in two parts: the public and the private, the seen and the unseen, the silent remainers in the studio, the chordal refrains in the gallery. Everything she has made is a sibling pot, ‘a member of the Flynn family’. Sara thinks very carefully indeed about the selection of work for the exhibition: she thinks both like a potter and an architect. The room brings its own challenges, and the presentation of these orderly, independent vessels has to be matched with an elegance and a sense of narrative to the particular volume of the gallery and the rise and fall of the eyeline within it. She thinks of the visitor, perhaps, as a dancer between the plinths, improvising the route. Control and intuition are at work in the makings and the placings, and Sara is both creator and co-curator. The vessels in this exhibition take forward Sara’s interest in the quiet radical nudge of the unanticipated line. On the face of it, a vessel ought to pay homage to order and symmetry and usefulness, but her vessels resound with the offbeat curve, the rim that dips, the foot that flattens. The slender surface of an elongated form is pushed in on the side; deep scars

run down. Sinuous curves are embedded into the walls of some works, enhancing the vessel’s sculptural potencies. Pairs of pots nod urbanely to each other, lean in as if in conversation. Her lines are sharp and soft, carved and dimpled, the volumes squeezed and fulsome, sometimes both in the same work. These are works of order, contradiction and peerless poise. They seem to be both totemic and somehow introvert, always selfcontained. They share the sense of clarity that infused Hans Coper’s vessels; and the power of sculptural form that is evoked by Magdalene Odundo’s work, and even, perhaps, the idiosyncratic and monumental sculptural intensities of Ruth Duckworth. One sequence of vessels on her studio shelf is composed with the kind of articulate line and proximal tension apparent in the groupings of Gwyn Hanssen Pigott. Seen in this way, Sara’s work also chimes with the lineage of modernist studio pottery. But her aesthetic is independent. She plays with space and volume as a whole and attends forensically to the detailed markings and flows of each piece, to bring out their individual potentials, their sense of partnership. She finds the monumental in the small; the drama of the large-scale. But I think something else is happening too. The work is suggestive of sculpture. The sympathy with the offbeat, sinuous line, the telling approximations of hard-edged metal, the off-keyness but resolved bend in material, and the power of monochrome, these seem to me to suggest her knowledge of contemporary sculpture, and in particular the monumental graces of work by Richard Serra. And there may also be a reflection on the contribution of minimalist sculpture and the certainties of constructed objects at work in the clarity of sculptural diction expressed in Donald Judd’s work. Sculptural intensity resounds in these vessels, through the force of form, the conviction of expected and unexpected line, and the synthesis of shape, colour and structure. The vessel has become useful as a metaphor. The exhibition contains pots of ‘exploration and play’ as Sara remarks, and despite the serious purpose of presenting the vessel as a metaphorical tool, and a kind of ceramic sculpture, her sense of investigative flourish is revealed in the spectacle of colours: we expect the potent whites and sonorous blacks, but the greens, yellows and a ‘full-on cobalt blue’ hit the eye hard in a ‘riot of colour’. It is still life as spectacle. Sara has found, as Penelope Curtis says, ‘the real in a world that is increasingly virtual’.

Professor Simon Olding is Director of the Crafts Study Centre at the University for the Creative Arts. He has a special interest in Studio Ceramics and is presently editing and writing a new book, Bernard Leach: Discovered Archives.

Flection Vessel 12.1 x 18.5 x 14 cm (SF-0290)

Flection Vessels 27 & 25 cm high (SF-0287 & SF-0288)

Flection Vessel 21.8 x 12.3 x 14 cm (SF-0292)

Vessel Group 25.5 x 86 cm (SF-0271)

Flection Vessel 31.5 x 16 x 11.5 cm (SF-0313)

Flection Vessel 15.8 x 18 x 15 cm (SF-0312)

Flection Vessel 23.6 x 26 x 23 cm (SF-0317)

Camber Vessel 25 x 23 x 23 cm (SF-0310)

Spine-Camber Vessel 10 x 12.8 x 12 cm (SF-0286)

Inner-Cut Camber Vessel 26.8 x 14.5 x 13 cm (SF-0305)

Vessel Group 23 x 115 cm (SF-0319)

Flection Vessel 24.5 x 21.5 x 26 cm (SF-0314)

Flection Vessel 31.2 x 16.5 x 14 cm (SF-0318)

Folded Vessel 19 x 27 x 16 cm (SF-0283)

Flection Vessel 16 x 21.5 x 15.5 cm (SF-0289)

Camber Vessel & Shoulder Vessel 22.8 cm high & 18.5 cm high (SF-0279 & SF-0280)

Inner-Cut Camber Vessel, Spine-Camber Vessel & Shoulder Vessel 15.3 cm high, 7.7 cm high & 19.8 cm high (SF-0281, SF-0277 & SF-0278)

Folded Vessel 16 x 14 x 10.5 cm (SF-0285)

Ipseity Vessel 22 x 10 x 10 cm (SF-0296)

Spine-Camber Vessel & Camber Vessel 11.2 cm high & 17 cm high (SF-0295 & SF-0294)

Flection Bowl 18.4 x 26 x 20 cm (SF-0297)

Folded Vessel 18.2 x 14.5 x 12.5 cm (SF-0328)

Sara Flynn b. 1971

Selected Exhibitions 2020 Sara Flynn, Erskine, Hall & Coe, London, UK 2019 Sara Flynn, Sokyo Gallery, Kyoto, Japan Design Miami, Florida, USA Surface Matters, DCCol Portfolio ‘Critical Selection’, Dublin Castle, Ireland 2018 Sara Flynn, Erskine, Hall & Coe, London, UK 2017 Chance Encounters 3 - Lionel Wendt, Richard Smith, Sara Flynn, curated by Jonathan Anderson, Miami Design District, Miami, Florida, USA Disobedient Bodies, JW Anderson Curates, The Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield, UK 2016 Sara Flynn, Erskine, Hall & Coe, London, UK 2015 Ontogeny, Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown, Northern Ireland 2014 Sara Flynn, Erskine, Hall & Coe, London, UK 2012 Sara Flynn, Erskine, Hall & Coe, London, UK

Full exhibition list and further biographical information can be found on our website at

Public Collections The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA (gift of Michael and Tamara Root) The Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth House, Chatsworth, UK Columbus State University, Georgia, USA The Crafts Council, UK Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork, Ireland The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK Gardiner Museum, Toronto, Canada Hunt Museum, Limerick, Ireland Loewe Collection Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Embassies Collection (Irish embassies in Canberra, Australia, Madrid, Spain, The Hague, The Netherlands and Beijing, China) The National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland Office of Public Works, Farmleigh House, Dublin, Ireland Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, China The Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK (purchase funded by Christopher M. Gorman-Evans) Awards 2019 2017 2016 2010 2006 & 2007 2005

Merit Award, The Golden Fleece Loewe Craft Prize finalist Merit Award, The Golden Fleece Winner of the Peter Brennan Pioneering Potter, Ceramics Ireland Award Travel Bursary Award by the Crafts Council of Ireland Research and Development Award by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland

All works are thrown and altered porcelain, made in 2020, and are fully illustrated at

Studio photography by Stuart Burford. Installation photography by Andy Stagg. Copyright Erskine, Hall & Coe Ltd. Printed by WKG Print.